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192                                                                                                            B- POLEVOI
the commotion to slip away, and I went straight off to
the officers' regiment. They gave me an appointment at
once. Everything is all right now. I've got my railway
ticket and 111 soon be off. But I must tell you, Alyosha,
I am more in love with her than ever, and I don't know
how I'm going to live without her."
Reading his friend's letter it seemed to Alexei that he
was gazing into his own future. No doubt this was what
would happen to him. Olya would not repel him, would
not turn away from him, she too would want to make the
same noble sacrifice, she would be kind to him, smile
through her tears and try to suppress her aversion.
"No, no! I don't want that!" he exclaimed.
He limped back to the ward, sat down at the table to
write a letter to Olya—a short, cold, matter-of-fact letter.
He dared not tell the truth. Why should he? His mother
was ill, and why should he add to her grief? He wrote
Olya that he had pondered a great deal over their
relationship with each other and had come to the conclu-
sion that it must be hard for her to wait. Nobody knew
how much longer the war would last, but time, and youth,
were passing. War is such a thing that there may be no
sense in waiting. He may be killed and she will be left
a widow without even having been a wife: or what would
be worse, he may be disabled and she will have to marry
a cripple. What was the use of that? Let her not waste
her youth, and let her forget him as quickly as possible.
She need not answer this letter, he will not be hurt if
she did not. He understood her position, although it was
hard for him to confess it. But it will be better that way.
The letter seemed to burn his hands. Without going
over it he put it in an envelope and quickly hobbled to
the blue letter-box that hung in the corridor behind the
water heater.
He returned to the ward and sat down at the table
again. With whom could he share his grief? Not with his
mother. With Gvozdev? He, of course, would understand,
but where was he? How could he find him in the infinite
maze of roads that led to the front? Write to his unit?
But will those lucky men engaged in their everyday war
occupations have time to worry about him? The "mete-
orological sergeant"? Yes, that's the one! He at once